Sunday, March 17th, 2024

Simple and Humble

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Let us pray. O Lord send forth your word into our ears that it may bear fruit in our lives in Jesus’ name, Amen. Persuasive writers are familiar with something called the rule of three. Maybe you’ve heard of this before. Basically, what it means is that a group of three things is more memorable than a group of two, or even just a single example. So, fire safety is taught to kids with three words “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” Or Julius Caesar’s famous quote that we remember because there’s three words to it. “Veni, vidi, vici.  I came, I saw, I conquered.” Or even the United States Declaration of Independence memorably proclaims that all people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights-life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And even the three examples of the rule of three helps us to remember how the rule of three works. Mark uses the rule of three, sort of. There are three times in the gospel of Mark where Jesus predicts his impending passion. Three times in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus tells his disciples what’s going to happen when they get to Jerusalem. Three times that he plainly and rather bluntly prophesizes that on the third day he will rise after being killed and crucified by the scribes and the chief priests. Once in chapter 8 once in Chapter 9 and once in chapter 10 which was this morning’s reading. But Mark also connects something else to each one of these passion predictions. So, see if you can figure out what it is. First, Jesus and his disciples were walking through the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They told him, “Some say John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and after three days he would rise again. And Peter rebuked him for talking in such a way. Surely the Messiah would never suffer at the hands of the priests and the scribes. Surely the Messiah would never die. So Jesus called the crowd to him with his disciples and said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  And then a week or so later Jesus and his disciples were once again journeying through Galilee and he taught his disciples saying, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” And his disciples were confused they were talking among themselves on the journey trying to understand. And somehow the conversation moved from what does it mean that the Messiah will die, to who among us is the greatest? So, Jesus sat down and called the 12 to himself and said “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And then taking a small child in his arms, Jesus saidWhoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” And then a few short days later, Jesus and his disciples were on the road again, going up to Jerusalem. That’s where today’s reading picks up. Jesus was walking ahead of the group, and the group behind him was amazed and afraid. Amazed, no doubt, of all that Jesus had done and said and taught up to that point, but afraid because he was intent on going to Jerusalem the stronghold of his opposition. Jesus was marching into the viper’s nest. And taking the 12 again, Jesus began to tell them exactly what was going to happen when he got there. The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of sinful men. The chief priests and the scribes would condemn him to death, and they would deliver him over to the Gentiles. The Gentiles would mock him, spit on him, flog him, kill him, but after three days he would rise. And for a third time the disciples missed the message. This time James and John, the Sons of Thunder asked Jesus for positions of prominence in the Kingdom of Glory, and for the third time in three chapters of Mark’s gospel, Jesus follows up a prediction of his passion, with teaching about humility and service. “You know, he says, “that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Three times, in three chapters, Jesus predicts his death, and all three times his prediction is paired with teaching about humility.  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”  So, our Lord lays before us the simple truth today. We should expect humility from our Savior. It’s all over the New Testament. His birth was humble; shepherds’ cattle and hay instead of princes and palaces. His life was humble; even foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of man had no place to lay his head. His death was humble; crucified outside the Holy City, as if he was nothing more than a common criminal. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” You see it ultimately doesn’t matter that the work of our Lord was not met with the world’s resounding applause or approval. Jesus did not come to impress the dying world. He came to save it. So also, today he continues to work in our lives through humble means. The simplicity of his Word spoken and sung in this room, the simplicity of bread and wine, the simplicity of water, the simplicity of getting out of bed on a Sunday morning and making it here by 9:00. Now don’t misunderstand. I know that with kids it’s not easy to get out the door in the morning. I know that when you work all week it’s hard to get up on a Sunday. I know that when it’s a little cold and even a little damp like it is outside today, the thought of snuggling up under a blanket with a cup of coffee is actually quite appealing. I mean it would be different if every time we showed up here the heavens opened, right? If there was thunder and lightning, maybe if the altar glowed or levitated or floated or if the dead were raised among us, or something incredible happened every Sunday morning that left us amazed and breathless and speechless. But instead, all we do is sing, pray, and confess our sins, hear our Lord’s words of forgiveness, receive that forgiveness through Word and sacrament. Don’t be discouraged by the simplicity of it. Don’t be discouraged that the church doesn’t meet the world’s standard of greatness. It’s not the world’s church. It belongs to our Lord. He is our head; we are his body. Although these gifts appear simple to our earthly eyes, the eyes of faith see the hand of God at work among us, forgiving us, strengthening us, uniting himself to us to walk with us every step of our journey. Our Lord lived a humble life. Our Lord died a humble death. He delivers his gifts to us today through humble means and then he calls us to lives of humble service in the vocations where he’s placed us. So, we’re free to rejoice in the simple acts of service that fill each day. The daily grind of getting the kids out of the house, getting everyone to school on time, or whether or not you have kids, the daily grind of keeping up with your own laundry, making dinner day after day, cleaning the same kitchen over and over and over again, in these simple acts of service our Lord is at work through you, making you a blessing to the other people in your family and he’s at work for you through the other people in your family. And then when you get to your job, in response to that same e-mail, answering the same question for the 5th time, when you patiently help the new colleague who needs to be read into a project that you’ve been working on for years, when you faithfully do the best you can each and every day, completing whatever task is in front of you, you are the Lord’s blessing to the people you work with. At home, at work, in all of our vocations, we simply live the lives that we are called to live. We don’t need to keep score, we don’t need to wonder if we’re doing enough to make God happy with us, we don’t need to measure the magnitude of the impact to see if we’re changing the world for Jesus and leaving our mark. Even if we’re not changing the world, we’re changing someone’s world, leaving a mark on someone’s life and the lives of the people closest to us, the lives of the people that God himself put there. It may sound simple and it may be humble, but simple and humble, those are words that are near and dear to the heart of our Lord. His life was simple and humble, so he’s placed us into the same. The eyes of faith see through the humble means to the reality behind them. The Lord of heaven and earth, the creator of all things, he loves you, he unites himself to you through Word and sacrament, he empowers you to live each and every day of your life united to him, he walks with you every step of the way. And it makes no difference whether or not the world is impressed, all that matters is Christ for you, and that is exactly what you have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.